They based their work on numerous previous studies that reported on changes in taste acuity, taste quality, odor perception, food aversion, and xerostomia (dry mouth) causing taste alteration. Findings from these studies showed changes in taste acuity are dependent on the site of the tumor with head and neck patients reporting more complaints than do patients with other types of cancer such as breast or lung. The most prevalent taste alteration reported is the perception of a metallic or bitter taste, with red meat often cited as a cause. Another earlier study showed aversion to food is now occurring in as much as 55 percent of the patients receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
From their review of the literature, the research team put together a listing of management strategies to improve taste and odor abnormalities for cancer patients. These include: avoiding the use of metallic silverware and reducing the consumption of foods that have a metallic or bitter taste such as red meat, coffee or tea. On the positive side, patients should increase their consumption of high-protein foods, add seasonings and spices to enhance flavors in some cases, practice good oral hygiene, and use agents such as sugar free gums and sour tasting drops to stimulate salivary secretion.
Dietrich explained their study of the literature, and synopsis of it, is meant to increase the recognition by oncologists and physicians of the disturbances cancer patients experience in their ability to taste and smell. "Oncologists who understand the types and causes of taste and olfactory abnormalities may be better prepared to discuss and empathize with these negative side effects," she and her colleagues concluded. And physicians could improve their relationships with their patients, sharing "possible mediation strategies," and directly affecting the recovery of patient
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